Like love and marriage, or the horse and the carriage, food and wine are meant for each other. Napa or Niagara, Bordeaux or Burgundy, wherever you find great wines being made, you’ll find interesting cuisine. Here are a few ideas to get you started on this journey.
Pairing wine with food
Driving through Tuscany, we discovered how the splendours of art and architecture go hand-in-hand with the pleasures of food and wine. Between Florence and Sienna, two-lane highways snake through the countryside, past tile-roofed homes, silvery olive groves and hillside vineyards, switching back and forth up to ancient hilltop towns.
To get close to the land, stay at an agritourism (a farm B&B), and day trip around the region. Since not all wineries are open for tastings, you can discover local wines at village enotecas (wine shops). Best known for its Sangiovese-based red wines, including Chianti, Brunello de Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
If you go: April/May or September/October are the best times. Take a few days to explore Maremma, Tuscany's less development, west coast.
Stellenbosch, South Africa
Stellenbosch, located 40 minutes east of Cape Town, is a charming university town where giant oak trees shade streets lined with Cape Dutch buildings. The surrounding area, typically regarded as a red wine district, has undergone a quiet renaissance. Young winemakers, not bound by tradition, are making wines with passion and conviction - and they’re making the world sit up and take notice. The drive along the Wine Route, past lush vineyards ringed by craggy mountains and dotted with sparkling white, gabled homesteads, is unparalleled. Cabernet Sauvignon, the region's most widely planted grape variety is often combined with Merlot to create Bordeaux Blend wines.
If you go: Enjoy a bottle of Pinotage, a lusty red, considered South Africa’s national grape. Pair it with bobotie, the country’s national dish – a delicious mixture of curried meat and fruit, with a creamy golden topping. A memorable meal awaits at The Vine Bistro at Glenelly Estate.
Waiheke Island, New Zealand
At 100 Square KMs, Waiheke Island is neither the largest nor the most famous of New Zealand’s seven wine-producing regions, but engaging and tourist-friendly, it certainly is. Situated in Hauraki’s Inner Gulf, the island is a 35-minute ferry ride – and a world apart – from the big-city bustle of downtown Auckland. Oneroa, the main town, is a lively village with an infectious Mediterranean-like atmosphere, it boasts a centre for imaginative arts and crafts. Cafés dot the landscape where millionaire weekenders rub elbows with barefoot backpackers, some with greying ponytails.
More than 30 boutique vineyards are scattered around the hilly landscape where the climate and soils are perfectly suited for Bordeaux-style red wines. From many, you can view the sea sparkling on the horizon. Stonyridge nestled in a shimmering valley of olive trees and vineyards, produces what is reported to be the country’s most expensive bottle of wine. If you’re a fan of French-inspired cabernet blends, you won’t want to miss this one. Or the delicious menu suggestions at The Verandah Café.
If you go: The white sandy beach at Oneroa slopes gently into the Hauraki Gulf and is perfect for swimming, kayaking, or picnicking.
Food Image courtesy of Stoneyridge Vineyard
Once the private vineyard of the popes, the little town of Châteauneuf du Pape lies at the centre of one of France’s loveliest, richest wine-producing areas, the southern Rhône Valley. Perched on a stony outcrop, it offers an ideal location from which to tour the region. The sheer variety of surrounding pastoral landscapes guarantees something for everyone and signs everywhere offer ‘degustation’. The wines here and in neighbouring Gigondas and Vacqueyras are warm and generous blends. Grenache dominates but Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault play supporting roles. Close by, the village of Tavel is rosé central.
Each year, the release of the new vintage Côtes du Rhône is celebrated on the third Thursday of November. Hundreds of vintners gather in Avignon, resplendent in the robes and regalia of their appellation for an après-sunset parade through the streets of the old town, that culminates with the cracking open of the first bottle of the latest vintage amid a magnificent fireworks display.
If you go: Visit a village market to pick up a freshly baked baguette, some artisanal cheese and fresh country pâté to have for lunch with a local wine – preferably in a sunny park.
Written by Anna Hobbs for Cruise & Travel Lifestyles magazine